Wednesday, June 26, 2013

AIGA Chicago: ”Between Light and Shadow“—realizing that chairs are creatures too

Left: Photographer: Tom Vack. Right: Design Director, Designer: Rick Valicenti.

Between Light and Shadow: The Designer/Photographer Relationship.
The AIGA Chicago event at Open Secret Studio / Chicago.
Tuesday evening, June 11, 2013.
photograph by versluis 2013

Photograph from the Open Secret Studio balcony by Steven Brooks. Photograph taken from flickr: AIGA Chicago’s photostream.

A few page spreads from the Holly Hunt Image Bookimage is courtesy of Graphis. Client: Holly Hunt. Design Director, Designer: Rick Valicenti. Designer: Robyn Paprocki. Illustrator: John Pobojewski. Illustrator: Cameron Brand. Photographer: Tom Vack

On Tuesday evening, June 11, 2013 during Chicago Design Week the AIGA Chicago held a fantastic show and tell event at the Open Secret Studio in Chicago. The event was publicized as “Between Light and Shadow: The Designer/Photographer Relationship,” which featured designer Rick Valicenti of Thirst/3st and photographer Tom Vack who spent time talking about their collaborative process to produce the beautiful Holly Hunt Image Book. Classic Color in Chicago printed the 64-page catalog on Sappi Fine Papers called Opus.

After brief introductions from event co-chairs Brendan Shanley and Robyn Paprocki the meeting was kicked-off by Holly Hunt of Holly Hunt Enterprises Inc., followed by Rick Valicenti who led the evening presentation. Rick is a cultural innovator, a leading contemporary designer and visionary, design director and visual artist. Tom Vack is an acclaimed photographer and visual artist and remarkable for his imagination.

It seems that nothing is impossible for Valicenti and Vack when collaborating on a design project. However, as Valicenti declared: “Without a visionary client [Holly Hunt] we don’t get to practice [visionary] design.” Rick suggested that a truly collaborative process begins with a fanciful client. For Valicenti and Vack a working collaborative process instigates open-mindedness and encouragement among the contributors.

Indeed, one of the most unique and striking things about Holly Hunt is that she sees her collection of furniture, lighting, and accessories as not merely inanimate objects, but actually as creatures. According to Rick it was in the planning stages of the Holly Hunt Studio catalog that Holly reviewed the sumptuous materials and surfaces of her new collection and exclaimed, “The aliens have landed and they are beautiful”. For Valicenti, Holly’s response captured the motif and emotion of the collection that “things are new again”.

Rick acknowledged that it was through the cooperation of all the participants including the people at Classic Color and Sappi who deserved much credit for continuing the collaborative spirit in order to complete the project. Tom Vack suggested that new designs, new processes and new materials require new approaches when developing tear-sheet images for the Holly Hunt Collection.

Rick explained the technical aspects of the production process while printing the page reverse negative image of the long sofa. At that moment he decided that the image needed an aura of gold flecks, which was then added to the UV coating. As a result the “fairy dust” effect would emphasize Holly’s initial quote, “The aliens have landed and they are beautiful”. Interestingly, the impact of this technique creates the quality and feel of traditional Japanese painting with mineral pigments on linen.

Additionally, Rick mentioned in a HOW Design/Sappi interview, “that many of the images are actually combinations of many images, each illuminating with a slightly different lighting direction. Once layered in post-production, this created geometric patterns of light and shadow.”(1) As Tom Vack mentioned, “photography and lighting is a formal process and with digital photography light can be anywhere and I can move it around the subject the way a Cubist way—by layering the images and erasing parts of the layers to combine and reveal the layers beneath—in this way, I developed the images.”

  1. Mazzoleni, Melissa. “Photographer & Designer Discuss New Furniture Design Publication - See more at:” HOW Design Blog 11 June 2013. Web. 15 June 2013.

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Thursday, June 20, 2013

One of Doug Garofalo’s futuristic designs: the “Camouflage House” display model from 1991

Douglas Garofalo (American, 1958–2011)
David Leary (American, born 1956)
Camouflage House, Burr Ridge, Illinois, Model. 1991
The width is approximately 24 inches 
Mixed Media
Photograph by versluis 2013

Chicago architect Doug Garofalo’s display model for Camouflage House is one of the beautiful pieces in the Art Institute of Chicago’s enjoyable exhibition called, Sharing Space: Creative Intersections in Architecture and Design now on display until August 18, 2013 in Galleries 283–285. Pictured above is Garofalo’s piece as it is shown in the exhibition—wall-mounted in a Plexiglas case. This vantage point emphasizes the graphic flatness of the patterns that reveal and conceal the proposed structure in its built environment.

The exhibition didactics related to this work state, “From the powerful effect of color to the rigor of geometry, this exhibition presents architecture and design works that reveal common concepts and strategies across these interwoven fields. Douglas Garofalo’s Camouflage House model produces patterns of color that [disguise] the contours of the building and redefine its relationship to the site.” In addition, “Vivid hues that function to create ambiguity about the structure and boundaries of the object when viewed from different angles.”

Here’s an interesting review of the exhibition by Paul Preissner. Also, Garofalo’s model reminded me of Roy R. Behrens’s fascinating research about many aspects of camouflage—check out Roy’s Camoupedia blog.

This is a promotional image with an elevational perspective for the exhibition: Sharing Space. (1)

To elaborate further about this piece the exhibition curator writes:

Douglas Garofalo’s Camouflage House proposes a new kind of site-specificity for a sloped suburban lot. Rather than approaching the landscape as an idealized natural form, Garofalo translated the topography of the site into a complex network of lines that determine the contours and the surface of the structure. In this model for the project, the intersecting lines are filled in with vibrant color, creating an elaborate field and cladding for the building that both defines and obscures the shape of the structure. Here the idea of camouflage—a concept that drew the attention of many modern artists in the early 20th century—has a double sense, as the shape of long, ramp-like volume of the house was designed as an extension and distortion of the neighborhood’s typical suburban driveways.
  1. Garofalo, Douglas, and David Leary. Camouflage House. 1991. Art Institute of Chicago. Gift of Douglas Garofalo, Chicago. Web. 18 June 2013.

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Monday, June 17, 2013

Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826) and American neoclassical architecture after the Palladian style

Thomas Jefferson’s residence, Monticello, near Charlottesville, Virginia was an experimental, functional, and stylistic work in process. Monticello was started around 1769 and continued to be transformed and re-formed by Jefferson until about 1809. Jefferson designed Monticello with it’s outbuildings as a self-contained development functioning as a small village. The view above is the southwest elevation. The natural stone color of the columns have just recently been restored to the way they looked in Jefferson’s day. Photograph by versluis 2013.

Similarly, Jefferson designed the campus for the University of Virginia (1817–26) to be an academic village. The Rotunda that held the library (shown above) stands hierarchically at the center and is flanked by pavilions, which housed various academic departments as well as professors and students. Photograph by versluis 2013.

Regarding Jefferson’s Rotunda design the Library of Congress website titled “Thomas Jefferson: Creating A Virginia Republic” mentions that:

The Rotunda at the University of Virginia was carefully planned by Jefferson to represent the authority of nature and the power of reason. To Jefferson, the classical architecture of Palladio, the famous Italian architect of the sixteenth century, best represented these ideals. The Rotunda originally housed the library, which Jefferson considered the major source of enlightenment and wisdom.

A 1826 Engraving by Henry Schenck Tanner after a drawing by Benjamin Tanner depicting the “Village Design of University of Virginia” (The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, The Albert & Shirley Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia Library)

Jefferson designed the buildings to gather around the Rotunda, which for Jefferson was a symbol of the Temple of Knowledge. The college buildings form a perimeter on three sides around the Lawn, in which the open end provides accessibility to the campus as well as a common green space. It’s interesting that Jefferson’s design expresses visually his belief that all the academic offices and disciplines are connected to one another.

Plan of the University of Virginia from c.1826.

David Handlin explains Thomas Jefferson’s view of education in the new United States of America as:
…a fundamental precondition of responsible citizenship. In his scheme of schooling the university occupied the paramount position. Rather than serving an established religion, as did English universities and those already in existence in the United States, Jefferson’s university was to be based on the “illimitable freedom of the human mind.”(1)
The illustrations are courtesy of the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior.
  1. Handlin, David P. American Architecture. 2nd ed. London And New York: Thames & Hudson Ltd., 2004. 44-55. Print.

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Sunday, June 9, 2013

Heinrich Campendonk: “Woman with Fish,” 1919 — masterful figure/ground relationships

Heinrich Campendonk
Dutch, born in Germany, 1889–1957
Woman with Fish, 1919
From the collection of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri
Photograph by versluis 2013

In this delightful woodcut the printmaker sees the negative space (ground) as significant as the positive forms (figure). Campendonk encapsulates the “white” shapes by using black shapes, exaggerating the visual tension and producing an image of greater emotive impact. To highlight this observation, Emil Ruder writes in his book Typography, “The modern artist raises empty space to be an element of equal value in design. Instead of space flowing round the surface [as did the Renaissance artist] we have surface tension. The white surfaces are enriched with tensions and the white is activated up to the edge of the format.” (1)

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art didactic explains the piece this way:

Internationally naïve, this image of a woman amidst all of the comforts of home was inspired by African and folk art, as well as by children’s art. The woman’s table is complete with food and drink, and her cat lingers by her side. Her domestic setting also includes its own inventive work of art. Just behind her hangs a framed picture with cross, moon and stars. Campendonk, a German Expressionist artist noted for his imaginative imagery, enlivens this composition with hard-edge abstract forms—repeated squares and circles within circles—that form decorative, rhythmic patterns.
  1. Ruder, Emil. Typography: A Manual of Design. Student Ed. New York: Hastings House, Publishers, Inc., 1981. 48-49. Print.

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Saturday, June 8, 2013

Josef Hoffmann: one of the first modern designers

Josef Hoffmann, designer, Austrian, 1870–1956
Wiener Werkstätte, manufacturer, Austria, 1903–1932
Samovar, designed ca. 1911
Brass and walnut
From the collection of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri
Photograph by versluis 2013

The simple circular portholes serve as air intakes and for heat source observation.  The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art didactic for this piece explains the artifact this way:

“To the age its art, to art its freedom.” These words, spoken by Austrian architect and designer Josef Hoffmann, underscore his belief that art need not copy the past but rather reflect present-day styles. Freed from historical constraints, Hoffmann abstracted his designs into simple geometric forms. Decorative metalwork provided Hoffmann with a malleable medium to be hammered, polished, punched or enhanced with applied ornamentation. This samovar, composed of a kettle with a base and burner to heat water for tea, exemplifies Hoffmann’s ability to combine multiple, functional parts into a unified form with subtle ornamentation. Despite the samovar’s simplicity and moderately priced materials, it golden surface and dark wood illustrates Hoffman’s rich and elegant aesthetics.

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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Benjamin Henry Latrobe (1764–1820) architect of the Baltimore Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The Baltimore Basilica, built from 1806-1821, was designed by Benjamin Henry Latrobe. Latrobe is known as the first professionally trained architect in the United States, and was Thomas Jefferson’s chosen architect of the U.S. Capital Building. Photograph by versluis 2013.

A watercolor showing the architectural elevation and cross-section indicating the interior details. The bell towers are are not the same as was actually built. This piece is in the Baltimore Basilica archives, photograph by versluis 2013. 

The wonderful details of the “coffered” dome and skylights. Latrobe’s chandelier design is an exact reproduction. Photograph taken with available light by versluis 2013.

Interior view showing the pews, organ loft, and side windows, which apparently were suggested to Latrobe by Thomas Jefferson. The fresco shown above is one of four designed by Latrobe honoring the four gospel writers of the New Testament. Photograph taken with available light by versluis 2013.

View of the masonry vaults that support the huge weight of the dome. Latrobe’s mathematics and engineering ingenuity seems very modern. Photograph taken with available light by versluis 2013.

For the design of the Baltimore Basilica, built from 1806-1821, Latrobe worked with Renaissance-style engineering ingenuity to produce a remarkable building. The Basilica is of the neoclassical typology, which was au courant at the turn of the 18th century in Western Europe, particularly in France. However, Latrobe’s brand of neoclassicism creates a striking edifice that freely and soberly translates the spirit of ancient Greek architectural principles and proportions, which results in a distinctively American architecture. The spare interior balances elegantly with the wonderful details of coffered dome and skylights. The combination of formal simplicity and structural complexity is harmonized to the service of Roman Catholic liturgy and symbolic of God’s grace. With a minimal amount of ornament (decoration meant monarchical decadence to Latrobe) the monochromatic yellow color scheme helps accentuate the effect of a worship space that is filled with natural light (the light of inner heaven) entering through the dome and large, clear glass side windows.

To give further insight into this building, The Catholic Review published an article by Suzanne Molino Singleton to commemorate a major restoration of the Basilica completed in 2006.

Singleton’s essay quotes Jeffery Cohen, architectural historian from Bryn Mawr College, who writes, “The basilica’s architectural significance is less a matter of such single features, and more a matter of monumental yet simplified geometry that vividly brought this more severe phase of neoclassicism to the heart of an American city. ” (1)

Singleton continues by saying, “Mr. Cohen explains that Latrobe had worked in this vein on a smaller scale in Philadelphia, and more in internal spaces at the U.S. Capitol, “but in Baltimore he had more scope and scale, and it challenged him to explore more complex possibilities of architectural iconography and lighting.” (2)

Because of its hilltop building site, the Basilica, at the time it was constructed, would stand out for all to see as a symbol and beacon for religious freedom in the new democratic republic. Today the Basilica is surrounded by the city buildings of downtown Baltimore and has become integral in its urban environment. 

  1. Singleton, Suzanne Molino. “An Architectural Masterpiece.” The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Ed. Daniel L. Medinger. Baltimore: The Catholic Review of The Catholic Foundation, 26 Oct. 2006: B29-30. Print. 
  2. Ibid. B30.

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